Syracuse University

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Workshop gears medical research librarians to changing environment

March 07, 2012

Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

Big data trends in bioscience and changing policies in health care are creating an increasingly complex environment for medical research librarians, and Jian Qin, associate professor at the School of Information Studies, has developed a workshop to help them address those issues. Titled “Developing Data Services to Support eScience/eResearch,” the session puts an eScience perspective on ways librarians can adapt to current and coming changes in the specialization, plus teaches new skills for doing so, according to Qin.

“Health science librarians are at a crossroads,” she says. “On one hand, health professionals are very sensitive about privacy and the confidentiality of subjects. Yet there are needs to share data, to help in the development of drugs and treatments. Librarians’ role in this crossroads is still being explored.”

QinQin recently advised several dozen librarians at a conference of the Mid-Continental Region, National Network of Libraries of Medicine. She offered methods and approaches for dealing with new work demands as well as a morphing of the profession. That included gaining knowledge of scientific research shifts; the fundamentals of managing increasingly large and complex data sets supporting research; guidelines for equipment upgrades; and insights into planning and implementing such services.

Whether they work in bioscience research, medical colleges or hospitals, or are accessing information from routine procedures such as X-rays and blood tests, librarians face a range of new situations, according to Qin. Besides learning new skills, librarians must also become their own advocates, to assure sufficient resources exist to do their jobs properly, she advised. “It is not the technology that they don’t know; tech is the simple thing. The most difficult issues are getting the institution to support [these initiatives] and to effect change in research communities’ cultures when data management is not on their minds regarding the librarians’ day-to-day jobs,” she says. 

This is the second such workshop Qin has presented, and its enthusiastic reception has validated her view of a growing demand for such information, she says. She also has been invited to the Pacific Northwest Region of the NN/LM Network to give the same presentation in April.

Qin's research interests include ontologies, metadata and scientific communication. She has published more than 60 papers and has given presentations at numerous national and international conferences, and currently is directing an eScience Librarianship Curriculum Development project funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services. She also teaches several courses: metadata, information organization, digital libraries, scientific data management and technologies in web content management.  

Qin holds a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master's degree in library and information science from University of Western Ontario.

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